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SPLICE OF LIFE

You don’t have to be a genetic scientist to wrangle your own phenotype. Rayfish uses a graphical user interface for would-be Doc Moreaus to drag and drop up to nine individual traits—the mottled coat pattern of a giraffe, say, with the scarlet hue of the multi-spotted ladybug.

A pair of Rayfish sneakers starts at $14,800, which includes custom DNA manipulation and raising the fish to maturity.

“Nature has already done the design work for us,” says Raymond Ong, a bioengineer and CEO of Rayfish, on his website. “All we have to do is identify the genes responsible for coloration and patterning, and then implant the ‘supergene’ cluster into fetal rays before they are born. As the ray grows over the course of several months, it gradually expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin.”

But genes aren’t something you can just plug and play. Scientific wisdom states that the expression of physical traits at this level of specificity requires several genes to work together in tandem. (Not to mention there’s no mention of Raymond Ong nor his Frankenfish in any scientific literature we know of.)

Growing your own kicks, in any case, doesn’t come cheap. A pair of chimeric sneakers costs between $14,800 and $16,200, a price that includes custom DNA manipulation, raising the stingrays to maturity in a “humane” (per Rayfish) aquaculture facility in Chon Buri, and shipping them to any address on the globe.

Progress, perversion, or poppycock? We’re at sea.

Update: Jan. 6, 2012
Livescience has a pretty compelling argument that this is a load of codswallop, which is to say, a hoax. “If you wanted to introduce the same coloration that a German shepherd has into a stingray, it wouldn’t work because the tissues of a dog, a mammal, are different from the tissues of a stingray,” Perry Hackett, a geneticist at the University of Minnesota, told the publication. “So the regulation of genes is likely not to be the same at all, even assuming you could do something like that.”

Update: Dec. 26, 2012
Next Nature, a Dutch nonprofit that “explores how new technology causes the rising of a next nature” admitted on Friday that Rayfish was part of a seven-month long con. The fictional startup was designed to “catalyze a debate on emerging biotechnologies and the products it may bring us,” the group admitted in a press release. “It furthermore questioned our consumptive relationship with animals and products in general.”

Next Nature timed its revelation with the debut of The Rise and Fall of Rayfish Footwear, a short documentary available on YouTube.

+ Rayfish Footwear

[Via Fast Co.Design]